March to Disney: Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire (2000)

This was a title that I wanted to discuss during 61 Days of Halloween, however, one of the good things about having multiple annual topics is that you will frequently find overlaps. Such is the case with Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire. Yes, it’s another DCOM (Disney Channel Original Movie), and another from the earlier days of Disney Channel’s sojourn into made-for-TV films.

The title is indicative of a few things: 1) what it’s about 2) That it’s at least partly (actually mostly comedic). The release date also give you a hint that said date is not seen as a good thing, seeing as how this is pre-Twilight.

As is the case with any of these titles that work a lot of the debt is owed to the cast, and this one runs pretty deep with Charlotte Rhea, Charles Shaughnessy, Robert Carradine, Matt O’Leary, Jake Epstein and Myles Jeffrey. More on that to follow.

The films begins with a movie-within-a-movie which sets the stage first for some of the comedic aspects, for the gothic (read: traditional) treatment of vampires, sets up characters and is used as a point of reference for rules when the kids find they are faced with a real vampire.

It is a an extremely structurally sound film as nothing is superfluous and things that seem like they are just fenestration do play a role later on and play into the plot everything from the desire to see a band called the Headless Horseman at the Harvest Festival, the promise of a date, the mention of mom (Rhea) having been in a band before, and more.

Typically in reviewing I avoid over-focus on the acting – not because it’s not important but mostly because it’s just one aspect of the film that needs to be discussed. In this film it’s what I frequently remember but it’s the solid foundation, the details in terms of the use of vampires that stand out.

There are a lot of hidden jokes for fans of the genre and a great implementation of archetypes commonly found in horror films. The discovery of the threat and the willingness to believe it’s true is very tied in to character arcs in the film.

Those arcs are accentuated by how good the performances are, and similarly virtually all the characters have pronounced, well-wrought and significant ones which is in fact a rare accomplishment. Matt O’Leary, had quite a few good turns as a young actor. The fact that this rivals his performance in Frailty is a testament to his skilled reads and reactions to situations, and the material. Playing his sidekick in a small, but not insignificant role, is Jake Epstein, who was perhaps best known as one of the forebears on the new-age Degrassi he is so good in this – such a different character than I saw him in afterward.

A perfect example of the cast’s work is a scene wherein Adam (O’Leary) is grounded (again set up by a seemingly innocuous improvised essay he created by reading a tabloid). It’s the kind of scene you see various times, but everyone O’Leary, Rhea and Laura Vadervoort; is so on that it works a lot better than it should.

That leads to the kids’ plotting which sets up everything that happens after that. If you’re after silly escapism, you’ll like this; if after a wink and knowing nod to the vampire subgenre, you should like this. If you like DCOM seasonal fare, you should love this. And that’s why I wanted to write about it of the Halloween-themed ones it’s by far the best and rarely airs. I had to re-screen it off a VHS recording I made in 2001. It’s a Disney title that really doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

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